A few years ago, when my daughter turned nine, I decided it was time to get to the bottom of this Santa business.
So I wrote her a “Dear Robin” letter. The following is some of what I wrote.
I’ve given you this letter because someone told you there is no Santa Claus. As you’ll find throughout your life, the truth is far greater and deeper than you imagined.
You took the first step toward truth by asking a question. That’s what separates people from animals. We ask questions, we seek answers, and if we’re not satisfied with the answers, we keep asking more questions. This can be hard to do when the questions are very deep and the answers don’t come quickly.
When that happens it’s easier to make up a story, accept it, and pass it on to the next kid. Children do that all the time. So do adults when they’re being childish.
As with all worthwhile questions, getting to the heart of the Santa question involves asking other smaller questions, starting with these:
- Q: Why do you think Santa gives you presents?
A: He does it because he loves you.
Q: But why does he do it at Christmas?
A: To remind you of the holiday and what it means.
Q: So what is Christmas all about?
A: It’s about giving.
Once upon a time, in the town where we live, there was a rich man without children. He had everything he could want, but something was missing. He found it in giving to the city he loved. When the city needed a new park or an arts center, he would write a check to pay for it. He had just one wish — that it be anonymous.
Of course only one man had the money to write that check. The rich man became known as “Mr. Anonymous.” Even after everyone saw through his charade, “Mr. Anonymous” continued to give anonymously. He did it to encourage others to do the same.
- Q: So was the rich man Santa Claus?
A: Yes, he was.
Every year at Christmas I try to read you a story by O. Henry called “The Gift of the Magi.” It’s about a poor couple. She sells her hair to buy him a watch chain. He sells his watch to buy her hair combs. O. Henry compares these two people with the wise men who, at Christ’s birth, brought the first Christmas presents.
- Q: So were these poor people Santa Claus?
A: Yes, they were.
Santa Claus means love and giving. Santa gives to all, asking for nothing but that you are good. And, really, there are no bad boys and girls, just good ones who do bad things once in a while. All boys and girls deserve presents.
Santa Claus comes once a year, reminding us of how we should be to one another all year. Giving not in hopes of receiving but just to make others happy. Spreading joy is the surest path to our own happiness. Remember that as you grow up.
- Q: So what happens on Christmas Eve? Is your friend right?
A: In a way, yes. Your mom and I do buy you presents, wrap them, and put them under the tree in Santa’s name after you go to sleep. For you, we play Santa Claus.
Q: So is there no Santa Claus?
A: No, I just told you, we act as Santa for you and your brother. Your neighbors’ parents play Santa for them. But there are many poor children whose parents can’t afford toys. Yet somehow there are presents under their trees, too. Strangers buy and wrap gifts for these children. The strangers act as Santa for these poor children.
The truth is anyone and everyone can be Santa Claus. When you give out of love — not out of hope of receiving but because you want to make someone else happy — you make yourself happy, and you become Santa Claus. In that moment, the greatest joy in the world is yours.
So now that you know the truth, you can be Santa Claus, too. Not just at Christmas, but anytime, anywhere, for anyone.
I hope you’ll be a good one.
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